Moody not at NFR for first time since '07For the first time in three years, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo got under way Thursday without Jill Moody. Instead of attempting to win her second consecutive NFR barrel racing aggregate title, Moody will be at home in Letcher, trying not to think about what could have been this year, had her horse Dolly not been plagued by a serious illness.
By: Matt Bunke, The Daily Republic
For the first time in three years, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo got under way Thursday without Jill Moody.
Instead of attempting to win her second consecutive NFR barrel racing aggregate title, Moody will be at home in Letcher, trying not to think about what could have been this year, had her horse Dolly not been plagued by a serious illness.
“I suppose curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll have to check it out, but I sure won’t lose any sleep over it,” Moody said of the 10-day event in Las Vegas, which is being televised live each night on either ESPN or ESPN Classic.
“I’m really not all that concerned about what’s happening in Vegas this week,” she added. “It’s going to be hard to watch.”
Moody cruised to the average title at last year’s NFR and finished as the reserve world champion. That followed her NFR debut in 2007, when she finished 11th out of 15 barrel racers, but earned one of the larger payouts at the event after winning several of the 10 rounds.
Moody was also off to a strong start this year, once again ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in late March. After taking some time off to let Dolly recover from some soreness in the spring, Moody dropped to about 10th in the rankings before hitting the road again in mid June, still on pace to qualify for what would have been her third consecutive NFR appearance.
But after competing in Reno, Nev., Moody headed north to Canada, in search of a $100,000 payout in Calgary. Instead, Dolly contracted pneumonia — which is frequently fatal to horses — and Moody’s season came to a sudden end.
By season’s end, Moody was 23rd in the NFR standings, eight spots out of the top 15 who qualify for the finals. Moody finished with $40,042.44 in winnings this year after winning nearly $388,000 between 2007 and 2008.
“I had some options where I could have leased some horses, but it was hard for me to leave Dolly,” Moody said. “It takes the wind out of your sails, so speak. This week, in hindsight, maybe I should have pursued it a little harder, but at the time it didn’t seem like the right thing to do, so I stayed home with her.”
Moody continued to enter her name in rodeos throughout the summer, giving herself the option to compete with another one of her own horses, or lease another horse. She said she had many offers from people to use their horses, and had even made arrangements to pick up a horse in Montana at one point.
But every time a new rodeo rolled around, Moody just couldn’t bring herself to actually make the effort.
“Every time push would come to shove, and it was time to actually go pick up the horse, something else would go wrong and it just never worked out,” Moody said. “There were just too many obstacles, and I just felt better off at home.
“It was frustrating, because in the back of my mind, it all comes back to this week. I really wanted to be in Vegas, but I didn’t want to go through the motions without Dolly.”
After a six month recovery, Dolly is doing better now, and was just cleared this week to go back to work. Moody said she is back in training, and hopes to hit the road soon in hopes of qualifying for the 2010 NFR.
“Hopefully, I get to start running her again in the middle of January,” Moody said. “I’m going to jump off right away at the beginning of the year, and just go as much as I can.”
At this point, Moody said it’s too early to tell how competitive Dolly can be in the next year, but she said she plans to ride several other horses as well.
“I don’t know if (Dolly) can come back and be competitive until I try, so that first month will answer a lot of questions,” Moody said. “I have a 4-year-old that has really stepped up late this fall, and she’s really shown some promise. I have another mare that’s pretty nice, too, so those two can take some heat off Dolly so I don’t have to rely on her so much.”